Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announcement today that the United States Department of Agriculture will develop a new system for animal disease traceability may positively affect small ranchers.
The USDA’s move comes as a response to the National Animal ID System implemented during the Bush administration to safeguard against food-born illness and bioterrorism.
“After concluding our listening tour on the National Animal Identification System in 15 cities across the country, receiving thousands of comments from the public and input from state, tribal nations, industry groups and representatives for small and organic farmers, it is apparent that a new strategy for animal disease traceability is needed,” Vilsack said in a release.
Though a volunteer program, it was criticized because it required ranchers to shoulder costs for book keeping and tagging when animals changed hands.
“It was a fine system for large producers because most of their animals they own from birth to death,” said Dave Carter, executive director for the National Bison Association. “Smaller producers’ animals move around more. These are typically struggling farmers who couldn’t afford to bear the costs associated with implementation (of the NAIS).”
Ron Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association, agreed.
“We are very happy that the NAIS is dead. It was harmful to smaller farmers and ranchers who maybe wanted to implement traceability but couldn’t do it alone.”
The press release states the basic tenets of the new program will:
Only apply to animals moved in interstate commerce
Be administered by the states and tribal nations to provide more flexibility
Encourage the use of lower-cost technology
Be implemented transparently through federal regulations and the full rulemaking process
“The state-by-state plans make sense, “ Carter says. “Every state already has a system for tracking livestock. If a new system could dovetail on the existing system, it may be more cost effective for ranchers. I’d say it’s a good step forward but I don’t know the details of their plan.”
The USDA’s next step will be a forum with animal health leaders and tribal nations to begin a dialogue on ways to implement a new system.
More information is available on the Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service website.